kosher bookworm

Some winter reading recommendations


The recent Kristallnacht commemorative in our community featured an address by Theodore Roosevelt IV, who referenced his grandfather, Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, and his open hostility toward the America First Committee and its anti-Jewish leadership in the mid-1930’s until Pearl Harbor in 1941. This struggle echoes to this very day.

In a timely coincidence, a new book was recently published titled Behold, America (Basic Books, 2018), by Sarah Churchwell. She focuses some very valued attention on the bigoted behavior of the America First movement, not just as a pro-fascist group but as something symptomatic of the very core of the American political world in a time that sorely needed social, ethnic and religious tolerance.

Churchwell, as did the two Theodore Roosevelts, saw the dangers represented by an element in American society that foreshadowed a potential danger to our country, and a potential to foster the growth of tyranny and endanger our republican form of government.

Another new book, To Heal The World? — How The Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel (All Points Books, 2018) by Jonathan Neumann, points a sharp finger at the contemporary political scene and the growing threat of the Jewish political left to traditional Judaism.

Of particular note is the review from political commentator Ben Shapiro, who says, “For too long, Jewish leftists have used Jewish sloganeering to serve their leftism, claiming that ‘tikkun olam’ dictates their politics. Neumann shows that the linkage between Judaism and leftism isn’t merely false, but fatally damaging to Jewishness itself.”

“The truth is that tikkun olam has no basis in Judaism,” Neumann tells us in his introduction. “It was conceived by Jews who had rejected the faith of their fathers and midwifed by radicals who saw it as a pretext to appropriate Jewish texts and corrupt religious rituals — such as the Seder — to further political ends. … This book sets out to slaughter the sacred cow of tikkun olam, at whose udder many unlearned Jews have suckled. But not-withstanding the many defects of tikkun olam — for which the leaders of the Jewish social justice movement that promotes it are to be blamed — the many ordinary American Jews who want to heal the world are ultimately simply doing what feels in their hearts and seems in their eyes to be right.

“But the Bible demands that Jews not simply pursue what appeals to their hearts and draws their eyes, but that they stay loyal to the covenant between their people and its G-d and obey His commandments (Devarim 15:39). And tikkun olam is no commandment.” Well said!

conclude this week with a listing of several other worthy books that deserve your attention. A Theology of Holiness (Kodesh Press, 2018) by Alec Goldstein teaches us that “the idea of ‘holiness’ is central to religion, but it is also one of the hardest concepts to define … This work traces how the idea of holiness has been applied throughout the ages. It is a work that utilizes historical, exegetical, linguistic, literary, anthropological, and philosophical tools in an interdisciplinary analysis.”

No easy read, but most worthy of your attention and study.

And last but not least is Rabbi Nachman Seltzer’s At His Rebbi’s Side: Rabbi Yehoshua Liff’s 50 Years of Personal Encounters With Gedolei Yisrael (Shaar Press, 2017). Of special note is the essay in Chapter 27, dealing with Rav Reuven Feinstein shlita. For that chapter alone, it is more than worth it to buy this book for yourself and your shul’s library. Savor the precious histories presented therein.